Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday papers

I just read some of the Sunday papers. Sickening. Most (if not all) had Saddam on the front page. Way to go in promoting a martyr. Shockingly, The Independent on Sunday was the worst of the lot, putting a picture of a dead Saddam on the front page. Sometimes even common sense by the anti-war paper seem to outweigh their desire to sell more papers. Wait, that is common sense, at least from a marketing point of view.

Can we get back to talking about Diana instead?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Depressing weather

Damn, just when you thought that the temperate has improved in your favour (8-10C) the bloody wind picks up again and soon enough the rain arrives. Did about 12 miles of cycling on the road today before heading back due to the rain. Dreadful and depressing times ahead. On the other hand I found the HummVee shorts great. The Teflon treated nylon material kept most of my skin dry. It isn't completely water resistant but still dries quick. And although thin and light the shorts works well in keeping my knees warm. I guess those guys up north in Scotland knows what they are doing when they designed it.

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So Saddam got hanged...

I guess now we will never know the extent of how much the US, and other civilised nations, supplied Iraq with WMDs and assisted them in the killings of hundreds of thousands of innocent people during the Iraq-Iran war and through subsequent slaughters (including the supposed knowledge by the US on the use of chemical warfare on Kurds)?

So when will we ever see Dubya & co. be placed on a trial for crimes against humanity?

Friday, December 29, 2006

MTB Impressions: Endura HummVee 3/4 baggy shorts

Okay I checked out the sales and fortunately nothing has so far interested me. So post Christmas January sales spent = £0. Only one thing caught my fancy but since it wasn't on sale...

Jen got me an Endura HummVee 3/4 knicker shorts. No idea why some MTB shops call baggies 'knickers' (it's an American thing), but I digress. It is really comfy and 3/4 meant that it is ideally suited for riding in the winter. Two zipped side vents meant that I could also use it during some of the hot summer heatwaves. It is loaded with pockets. These includes the two rear pockets capable of fitting in standard Ordnance Survey Explorer/Landranger folded maps. It seems useless to anything other than maps since both are secured by a tiny patch of velcro.

There are also two front zipped pockets for apples, a cargo pocket (whatever that means) and a zipped mobile phone pocket (which I will probably dump my wallet or camera in it as my HTC Universal won't be able to fit in it). A key clip hangs from the left hip, which I won't be using. I would not want to risk a crash with keys dangling around. As a bonus it came with a removable 'Clickfast' coolfast (Lycra) padded liner. It isn't as comfy as my Nike liner though.

The whole construction of the Hummvee is pretty good. I like the fact that the inner leg panel is seamless, which in my experience meant that it is more durable, and comfortable. Since the short came in neutral black (there are different colour options) it doesn't really look like a technical singletrack attire, thus probably able to blend in with my casuals. I was actually hoping on getting an Oakley Ballistic for myself, but those are ridiculously expensive (though they look awesome), plus I do not know of any brick shops that sells them.

Hopefully my flu will recover by tomorrow as I can't wait to get back in the saddle.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cross dressing gamers

I hardly play MMOs, but if I do ever get back into Guild War, I assume I would probably select a female character as my avatar. Probably the same with SecondLife, WoW and Phantasy Star Online. Again if I ever bother with MMOs (which I haven't yet, thankfully). But as far as single player games go, I almost always choose to play a female character if given the choice (which is probably why it was easy for me to create a list of female gaming characters I like)

Firstly I just hate stereotypical aggressive male character design, though I love to play the stereotypical sexy female character design. If I have no choice I rather play as an effeminate male character than a butch one.

Female video game characters just happens to be a whole lot more interesting than males. If designers put more effort into designing interesting male characters than the usual tough looking guy, then maybe yeah. Anyway it isn't wrong or anything. I am after all just role-playing.

Then there is the benefit to picking female characters, especially in role-playing games. Their stats suits my style. If I want to train up as a mage I rather have a female than a weird looking Arnie styled dude. Female characters also tend to have better agility, which suits my game style even more.

Personally I rather look at a shapely female model than an ugly male model with fugly textures.

Also Jenni loves to play as the stereotypical aggressive male. So it goes both ways. What I find shocking though is judging by the level of comments at Kotaku, it seems that many male gamers also prefer to play as a female especially in MMORPGs. I have always thought it was just me.

So what about you? Do you role-play as a character from the opposite sex if given the choice?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More top something lists

So Eurogamer has started the countdown to the top 50 games of 2006. Can't wait to see the outcome of the forums! This is my list (complimentary to that other list). Only games that I have played, released this year, either in Europe, Japan or America qualifies.

Top 15 Games of 2006

1. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the King (Square Enix/Level 5, PS2, Japan)
2. Shadow of the Colossus (Sony Computer Entertainment, PS2, Japan)
3. Final Fantasy III (Square Enix/Matrix, DS, Japan)
4. Gyakuten Saiban 2 (Capcom Production Studio 4, DS, Japan)
5. Animal Crossing: Wild World (Nintendo EAD, DS, Japan)
6. Elite Beat Agents (iNiS, DS, Japan)
7. Half-Life 2: Episode One (Valve, PC, USA)
8. Metroid Prime Hunters (Nintendo Software Technology, DS, USA)
9. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (Square Enix/Tose, DS, Japan)
10. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda, PC, USA)
10. New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, DS, Japan)
11. Trauma Center: Under the Knife (Atlus, DS, Japan)
12. Contact (Grasshopper, DS, Japan)
14. Professor Kawashima's Brain Training (Nintendo, DS, Japan)
15. Gunpey DS (Q Entertainment, DS, Japan)

For a year when finally all three so called "next-gen" consoles are out, it may be a surprised to some that my list lacked any. Well I couldn't get a Wii. Nintendo decided it needed to screw up the European launch. Hell people with pre-orders dating to early November has yet to received their units this side of Christmas. Sony Computer Entertainment decided that Europe isn't worth it as far as the PS3 is concerned. Hell at £425 I would wait 3-4 years and 4-5 price cuts later, and maybe a PS3 slimline, to even consider getting one. As for the 360, nothing I have seen caught my fancy. I love old fashioned generic FPS and the 360 no doubt will have plenty of it. But I hate playing shooters using the joypad.

DS games dominated my gaming life in 2006, as some of you probably know. Personally one of my mate has got back into gaming via Nintendo's DS and we managed to coax another mate of ours into getting one. She has been having a wild of a time, although she is having difficulty in getting her boyfriend to join.

My PC is pretty out of date so the only game I got to enjoy was Half-Life 2: Episode One. Oblivion was great but I think I will have to upgrade my PC to fully enjoy it. There were a couple of great games for PS2, but the two I am looking forward to (FFXII & Okami) won't be released in Europe until 2007. I never liked Guitar Hero anyway so it is obviously missing from the list. Dragon Quest VIII was only released in Europe early this year but it was worth the wait. Excellent, but not over the top, anime cel-shaded graphics, combined with brilliant British and European voice acting, symphony opera soundtrack, old school RPG menu combat system and old fashioned plot made this a simple but utterly addictive game.

Games personally looking forward to in 2007:

Assassin's Creed (Ubisoft Montreal, PC, Canada)
Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (EA, PC, USA)
Dragon Quest IX: Protectors of the Starry Sky (Square Enix/Level 5,DS, Japan)
Final Fantasy XII (Square Enix, PS2, Japan)
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo EAD, DS, Japan)
Lunar Knights (Kojima Production/Konami, DS, Japan)
No More Heroes (Grasshopper Manufacture, Wii, Japan)
Okami (Clover Studios, PS2, Japan)
Rogue Galaxy (Level-5, PS2, Japan)
Shin Migami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 (Atlus, PS2, Japan)
Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (tri-Ace, PS2, Japan)
Seiken Densetsu: Dawn of Mana (Square Enix, PS2, Japan)

Top 15 music albums of 2006

1. Appleseed Cast "Peregrine"
2. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah"
3. Dirty Pretty Things "Waterloo to Nowhere"
4. Hot Chip "The Warning"
5. Belle & Sebastian "The Life Pursuit"
6. Camera Obscura "Let's Get Out of This Country"
7. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins "Rabbit Fur Coat"
8. Delays "You See Colours"
9. Islands "Return to the Sea"
10. Muse "Black Hole and Relevations"
11. The Kooks "Inside In/Inside Out"
12. The Killers "Sam's Town"
13. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan "Ballad of the Broken Seas"
14. Guillemots "Through the Windowpane"
15. The Zutons "Tired of Hanging Around"

Some may remember 2006 as the year of the Arctic Monkeys. I did not. Seriously I have never ever seen anything special in the brand of "post-punk" dribble, so I wouldn't even bother to describe my amazement that they even managed to snag the desired but rather pointless Mercury Prize.

Appleseed Cast's Peregrine is an intense but beautiful album. There is a balanced mixture of instrumentals, indie rock with soaring guitars and the odd electronic numbers. Clearly album of the year for me. The Killers

Also went through my blog and deleted most of the numerical ratings that accompanied my reviews, in line with Richard and British Gaming Blog. I say most 'cause some I've left untouched (because the review was so short that a rating probably meant more than the text itself and because I can't be bothered to edit all my posts). Anyway removed said numbers. Texts means more than numbers, and even for an insignificant blog like this, I prefer if people actually read my posts than skimming straight to the rating.

Two days after Christmas...

Something utterly disturbing I found while browsing teh Interweb.


via MediaWatchWatch

For a CoE country, Britain does have a lax attitude when it comes to religion. According to a Guardian/ICM poll, 82% of people in Britain believes that religion does more harm than good, which is pretty true. Apparently non-believers outnumbers believers by two to one, although I find that questionable as the same poll also concludes that half of those considers themselves Christians. I know it doesn't make much sense, but many people I know affiliate themselves to the CoE, but doesn't actually believe in a being commonly known as god.

Oh well, anyway the sale has already begun. I sneaked into town to check out some of the bargain bins. Nothing has so far impressed me. GAME has Yakuza for £10 and HMV has Bully for £18. CEX still has the unsold Wii for £350. Who the bloody hell would drop £350 after Christmas, for an open boxed Wii that has been exposed to the sunlight???

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas lunch, an excuse to binge eating

Roasted boneless lamb leg joint glazed with redcurrent and rosemary, served with roasted potatoes, boiled veggies and roasted yorkshire pudding. Not as great as those slow-mo M&S ads, but you get the idea.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas repeats

Just had a look through the TV guide and guess what? Repeats after repeats. How many times are they expecting us to go through Chicken Little and Babe? Desperate Housewives can't start soon enough. At least we have the new Doctor Who and Vicar of Dibley to look forward to.


Bishop calls for veil legislation

Of course he would be against the veil, he is a bishop after all. Wasn't he the one who made that pretty dumb 'double standards' comment? The one where he accused an opposing religion of hypocrisy (which organised religion isn't guilty of double standards?)? You would think this side of Christmas people would learn to just shut up, at least for the next few days. Happy Winterval indeed. I wonder what is his policy on veils worn by nuns and OAPs?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Hooked on Dragon Quest VIII

Bloody hell, the streets are so quiet. The town is, well, like a ghost town. Everybody has probably just buggered off to live in some airport. I am in Jenni's flat and the whole flat is dead, which is fine cuz we can turn on the volume of the telly up a notch. It is depressing though. Maybe we can go off for a bike ride tomorrow or something.

I also introduced Dragon Quest VIII to Jenni, and after a short tutorial on the logic of menu driven turn based combat system (she is a fan of action based combat), she got hooked into the game. She has since hogged the telly and the only thing I am allowed to do is prepare the meals and sulked in the corner.

Saw a Wii on sale at CEX. They were buying it for £290 cash and are selling it back to the public for 350 quid. Quite the mark-up over the £180 recommended retail price. Apparently it has been there for days. With a day of Christmas shopping to go, hopefully there isn't anybody idiotic/desperate enough to let CEX get away with it.

Top 10 female video game characters of all time

Chun-Li (Street Fighter series)

Jessica Albert (Dragon Quest VIII)

Cate Archer (No One Lives Forever series)

Samus Aran (Metroid series)

Elexis Sinclaire (SiN)

Kasumi (Dead or Alive series)

Jill Valentine (Resident Evil series)

Sniper Wolf (Metal Gear Solid)

Claire Redfield (Resident Evil series)

Isabella Valentine (Soul Calibur series)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jon's "Christmas Awards" 2006

EDGE's Christmas issue is due in the shops any day now. With it the annual Christmas Awards were announced, with Final Fantasy XII getting game of the year. Which is great and all but since FF XII isn't out in PAL territory until next year I guess it is all conjecture, at least for me. Here are my "Christmas Awards" for gaming in 2006...

Best Game
Dragon Quest VIII Journey of the Cursed King (Square Enix, PS2)

In many ways Dragon Quest VIII is one of the best games you can ever play in recent history. Sure RPG haters will naturally hate this, but even Jennifer, who traditionaly shun turn based combat games has learnt to love this. At first, due to the narrative, then progressively the combat system. Combined with great visuals, excellent British voice acting and stunning orchestra, this really does deserve game of the year, even if it came here more than a year later.

Satoru Iwata (Nintendo)

Console Game
1. Dragon Quest VIII (Square Enix/Level 5, PS2)
2. Shadow of the Colossus (Sony Computer Entertainment, PS2)

Portable Game
1. Final Fantasy III (Square Enix/Matrix Software, DS)
2. Gyakuten Saiban 2 (Capcom Production Studio 4, DS)

Best Innovation
1. Nintendo Wii
2. Professor Kawashima's Brain Training (Nintendo EAD, DS)

Best Visual Design
1. Dragon Quest VIII (Square Enix/Level 5, PS2)
2. Shadow of the Colossus (Square Enix, PS2)

Best Audio Design
1. Dragon Quest VIII (Square Enix, PS2)
2. Uhm, nothing else strikes me as unique

Best Developer
1. Nintendo EAD (Japan)
2. Square Enix (Japan)

Best Publisher
1. Nintendo Japan (Nintendo Europe gets worst publisher)
2. Atlus

Best Online Experience
1. Animal Crossing: Wild World (Nintendo EAD, DS)
2. Gaming blogs and fanboys during E306

Best Hardware
1. Nintendo DS Lite
2. Sony PS2 Slimline (I know it came out in 2005)

Idiot(s) of the year
1. Jack Thompson and anti-gaming lobby.
2. Idiots who started class action lawsuits on Nintendo due to Wii strap 'issue'.

BTW, Jenni just got Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening and she loves it. I had no idea she is into this sort of games!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

London Eye

Been here for ages but never been on the London Eye, until this week. By taking advantage of the Oyster Card offers you get half price of the tickets (BOGOF). The weather was shit but the view was still stunning. Even Battersea power station was visible. The journey only lasts for 30 minutes but is probably worth it, even for Londoners. Best check it out during the off-peak season.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for Wii hands-on

Woo-hoo... not. There isn't a Wii to play on. It is still factory sealed if anyone wants it. I will play with the GameCube version instead and give a proper hands-on account then.

Since I haven't (can't) played it yet I will just describe the box. It is nice (apart from the white box that it came in - Wind Waker came in a golden coloured box) and the artwork is splendid. Link, in both his original humanoid form, and his wolf form in the Twilight Realm, appears on the box. The backside has no description on what the game is, apart from how to play the game with a WiiMote and a note on how this is the biggest Zelda adventure of all time. See most books, games and DVDs, and the back side is mainly populated by plot summary. I hope this won't be a norm on future Wii games, as I found it unnatural. Zelda games are popular for its narrative, not the way it's controlled!!!

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Friday, December 15, 2006

10 material Christmas wish list

Well since Richard has done one, I guess I should get going with mine.

1. Nintendo Wii
2. Kona Kula Supreme / Felt RXC Pro / Specialized Stuntjumper Expert
3. A new PC that actually uses less electrical power
4. Final Fantasy XII, for PAL
5. Nip/Tuck and Six Feet Under in High Definition
6. Authentic New York style cheese cake
7. Chocobo and the Magic Picture Book, in English
8. A new FPS/TPS game that doesn't have the usual generic aliens/monsters enemies, plot-lines, unrealistic heroes that doesnt wear helmets and cheesy voice acting
9. Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rose-Colored Rupee Land, in English
10. Complete 2007 Shimano XTR (and SRAM X.0 rear mech) groupset

My 10 wish list for Christmas later in the week.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Technology makes us dumb, apparently

"Technology isolation syndrome" is the reason that people are dumber than they use to be, according to research sponsored by Tesco (who plans to con people combat this by releasing an "internet phone technology" - which already exists in the form of VoiP). The research points out that teens have lower vocabulary than those in their mid 20s to mid 30s and games and music are to be blamed. Surprising isn't it, yes but, no but...?

via Guardian Gamesblog


I was at a GameStation store yesterday and the guy in front of me was buying the following:

3x Wii Remotes
1x Wii Classic Controller
1x The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess for Wii
1x Madden 07 for Wii
1x Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz for Wii
1x The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess strategy book

Nothing wrong with wasting around £240 (though why bother with a strategy book when you can download free FAQs) especially if you can afford it, but this customer didn't have an actual Wii console. He was stocking up regardless. Nintendo, it must be great to have the amount of money coming your way, but for people to actually play those games that they bought, they must also own the console. Good luck to him, but I suspect that this guy's recent purchases will see no action before Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sonic/Mario GAME gift cards / Dragon Quest IX on DS!

I don't normally go for GAME stuff but these gift cards are awesome. Great for any fans of Sonic and Mario. Too bad the new Sonic the Hedgehog game blows. Pokemon (Pikachu) and The Sims 2 (bleh!) cards are also available.

Anyone moaning the lack of RPG goodness on the DS platform should send letters to thankfulness to Yuji Horri. After one successful Dragon Quest spin-off and another one on the way, the creator of the series has decided to bring the next major installment (numbered) of the series, Dragon Quest IX, to the DS platform. And it won't be a spin-off either. The early build looks great. Combat will move from turn based to action orientated (ala Mana series), which may enrage some hardcore fans. But to me RPG isn't about the combat system, it is about role-playing. This is why the genre is called RPG (role-playing game).

The super deformed characters reminds me a whole lot of the SNES era and this wil solidify the DS as the new SNES. Fixed consoles like the Wii and PS3 may have better graphics than portables, but with people like me always on the move, bringing one of the best series to a (successful) portable platform may actually pay off for Squenix. By the way, it will be developed by Level 5, the developers who made the pretty Dragon Quest VIII.

Waiting for the inevitable special edition Dragon Quest DS Lite. My enamel navy DS Lite is getting seriously needing a replacement. I counted about six specks of dusts under the touch screen. Bloody annoying, especially in the sun.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Jenni's surprise birthday party

We held a surprise birthday party for Jenni yesterday. Had a great time. Here are some pictures:

Absolutely freezing today. Had to go back to London in minus temperature. The NatEx coach I took had a busted heater too.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Christmas controversy

India nuclear export okay according to US.

Bloody fucking hypocrite!


Ooo... about 15 days to Christmas and we already have a Christian vs Seculars, Muslims Vs Christians, believers Vs non-believers etc. war of words going on through the mass media. With nothing like Jerry Springer: The Opera planned on the BBC, I thought we would have a boring December. But no... Let me say this, this Christmas will be a lively one.

First up, Muslim Association of Britain has decided that after the way the right wing media managed to kill of any possible release of Rule of Rose video game, they thought that they could do the same - this time on a crap game based on crap Christian books, titled Left Behind: Eternal Forces. In this RTS title you command a Christian army, out and about killing non-believers (apparently modeled after the UN). Wow. The Times reported (wrongly) that the game could be heading for the best seller chart (didn't they know how un-Christian Britain is?). They also failed to mention that progressive Christians in the US has already condemned the game. Even seculars are joining in, but fortunately stop short of calling a ban, instead respecting our rights to make decisions on our own.

Next up, Channel 4 has decided to drum up some kind of controversy, by inviting a veiled Muslim lady to deliver the 'alternative Christmas message' - which is kind of stupid, even by C4's standard. But it brings in the kind of irrelevant religious debate that we are hoping for. First strike by Christian Voice UK's Stephen Green: "The niqab is a veil of separation between Muslims and the indigenous Christian community. This will expose multi-culturalism for what it is – a bias against the indigenous Christian population". But nobody takes him seriously so nobody bothered to reply.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

A Wii dilemma

I had a dream last night that I took the tube to Central London at 6am and walked into GAME's flagship store in Oxford Circus and purchased a Wii box (which isn't going to happen, because by 6am everything would be sold out), sans Twilight Princess. It is weird because up until then, I rather delay getting it until sometime next year when more quality games are available (It took half a year before developers started making good games on the DS). I still won't get it this weekend, but now the thought of getting it during the launch window will always be hanging over my head. Ah hell, at least I can look forward to the new Castlevania game this Christmas.

BTW always remove your socks when walking down a carpeted stairs. It really fucking hurts if you slipped...

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Monday, December 4, 2006

Christmas isn't that offensive

I love it when right-wingers whinge about the 'secularisation' of Christmas and hiding behind their favourite 'political correctness gone mad' sayings. I mean many of us non-believers love Christmas too. It gives us a chance to sample booze and looking forward to capitalism's greatest and only gift to us - the massive January sales, during which when we can laugh at the hundreds of Chinese girls queuing up in the cold for outdated Gucci bags.

Christmas to me is about sitting in front of the telly, putting on winter fat, while watching the endless re-runs and Doctor Who specials, and cringing at the latest Tim Allen bomb. Anyway it isn't like Christmas is the celebration of Christianity, when all they did was nicking the festival from the pagans.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Top 100 games of all time

Another utterly worthless post to keep this blog from heading down the gutter. This time a top 100 games of all time, that I have ever bothered to play.

I didn't put much thought into the list. Who would? It isn't a serious list, just a list of games I love(d), as of November 2006. It doesn't include pretentious games that many people pretend to like though. Also, not all that made the list, I would even consider twice of playing again. For example F-Zero was great and I had fond memories of it, but will I ever play it again? Hell no. It has aged rather badly me thinks (faux 3D games tends to do that).

I did think hard (for like 10 minutes) of ranking the top 10 games though and why I love them. Commentary on the top 5 (because I am lazy enough not to justify the latter five).

List updated as of May 2008

1. Total Annihilation (PC, Cavedog Entertainment, 1997)
- This is the ultimate game as far as I am concerned. When I first played this many many years ago, I had no idea that it would ever lodge
Red Alert from my top RTS game list, but it did. Incredible graphics (even in this day), soundtrack and huge maps. Enemy A.I. was a bit patchy, but so what? The cool thing about this game was building up a massive army (hundreds) of cyber robots and watching the mayhem as they destroy the pitiful enemies. This game rocks, and still rock hard today. I pity the fools who prefers StarCraft over this.

2. Chrono Trigger (SNES, Square Co., 1995)
- Still the greatest RPG ever made, Chrono Trigger, while short, featured multiple ending due to the non-linear gameplay offered through time traveling.

3. Final Fantasy VI (SNES, Square Co. 1994)
- While not too dissimilar with fanboy favourite
Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VI was without doubt a much better game. Nothing more nothing less. That is of course my opinion.

4. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (PS2, Square Enix/tri-Ace, 2006)
- Without a doubt one of the best RPG game in recent history. The sequel to the fantastic PS1 game eschews jRPG cliché for a more modern uptake on the stale genre.

5. Final Fantasy XII (PS2, Square Enix, 2006)
- The developers of
Final Fantasy XII with much flair, revamped the series for the PS2's final Fantasy swansong. Purist may hate it, but this is destined to be a classic.

6. Command & Conquer: Red Alert (PC, Westwood Studios, 1996)
- Who could ever forget playing
Red Alert on those creaky Windows 95 Pentium machines, cranking up the speakers to full blast whenever 'Hell March' plays, annoying the neighbours at the same time? The sequel to another masterpiece, gameplay hasn't really aged well, but the graphics (made up of 2D sprites over 3D isometric plane) still hold up well.

7. Rollercoaster Tycoon (PC, Chris Sawyer, 1999)
- It is quite shocking that such a behemoth of a game was developed by a single man who was obssessed with rollercoaster, which in turn turned many of us into obsessed
Rollercoaster Tycoon gamers - with so many sleepless night wasted trying to create the most insane rollercoaster there is.

8. Gyakuten Saiban 3 (DS, Capcom Production Studio 4, 2007)
- An utterly bonkers of a game, yet a fine example that text adventure role playing genre can still do well.

9. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (GCN, Nintendo EAD, 2003)
- If I was a well known guy and this was a well known list,
Zelda fanboys would be sending threats due to my ranking of Wind Waker higher than Ocarina of Time. Fortunately this is the internet and such a simpleton like me isn't important enough to warrant an assault. Put it simply, in my opinion, OoT has aged rather badly, whereas Wind Waker, like an old Disney classic, still looks stunning (granted it is newer after all).

10. Soul Calibur (DC, Namco, 1999)
- When I got the Dreamcast for the low price of 20 quid, I bought three games with it, all original, and all at a fiver a piece. This was one of it. Beautifully executed moves were a joy to create. Maybe I should start looking for my old Dreamcast again.

11. Shadow of the Colossus (PS2, Team-Ico)
12. Dragon Quest VIII (PS2, Level-5/Square-Enix)
13. ICO (PS2, SCEI)
14. Metal Gear Solid (PSX, Konami Computer Entertainment Japan)
15. God of War (PS2, SCEA)

The rest (in alphabetical order):

Advance Wars (GBA, Intelligent Systems)
Age of Empires (PC, Ensemble Studios)
American McGee's Alice (PC, Rogue Entertainment)
Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS, Nintendo)
Astro Boy: Omega Factor (GBA, Treasure)
Battle City (NES, Namco)
Beach Life (PC, Deep Red)
Bubble Bobble (NES, Taito)
Caesar III (PC, Impressions Games)
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1, Konami)
Command & Conquer (PC, Westwood)
Commandos 2: Men of Courage (PC, Pyro Studios)
Contact (DS, Grasshopper Manufacture)
Contra (NES, Konami)
Crazy Taxi (DC, Hitmaker)
Dead or Alive 2 (DC, Team Ninja)
Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive (PC, Spellbound)
Dino Crisis (DC, Capcom Production Studio 4)
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2, Nippon Ichi)
Doom (PC, id Software)
Double Dragon II (NES, Technos Japan)
Dragon Quest III (SNES, Enix)
Empire Earth (PC, Stainless Steel Studios)
Final Fantasy IV (SNES, Square)
F-Zero (SNES, Nintendo)
God of War II (PS2, SCEA Santa Monica)
Golden Sun (GBA, Camelot)
Gradius (NES, Konami)
Gunstar Heroes (SMD, Treasure)
Half-Life (PC, Valve)
Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town (GBA, Marvelous)
Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 (PC, Ritual Entertainment)
Hexen (PC, Raven Software)
Hitman: Codename 47 (PC, IO Interactive)
Ice Climber (NES, Nintendo)
killer7 (GCN, Capcom Production Studio 4/Grasshopper Manufacture)
Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (GBA, HAL)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, Nintendo)
The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap (GBA, Flagship)
Lode Runner (NES, Hudson)
Max Payne (PC, Remedy Entertainment)
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (PC, 2015, Inc.)
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (PC, Lucas Arts)
Mortal Kombat II (SNES, Sculptured Software)
Mother 2/Earthbound (SNES, HAL)
No One Lives Forever (PC, Monolith)
Okami (PS2, Clover)
Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (DS, iNiS)
Outrun 2006 Coast 2 Coast (PS2, Sumo Digital)
Paperboy (NES, Mindscape)
Parasite Eve (PS1, SquareSoft)
Populous: The Beginning (PC, Bullfrog)
Prince of Persia (PC, Broderbund)
Quake (PC, id Software)
Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition (Wii, Capcom Production Studio 4)
Resident Evil Code: Veronica (DC, Capcom Production Studio 4)
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (PC, Gray Matter Interactive)
Sam & Max Episodes Season One (PC, Telltale Games)
The Secret of Monkey Island (PC, Lucasfilm Games)
Seiken Densetsu: Secret of Mana (SNES, Square)
Sensible Soccer (PC, Sensible Software)
Shenmue (DC, Sega AM2)
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2, Atlus)
Shogo Mobile Armor Division (PC, Monolith)
Shogun: Total War (PC, Creative Assembly)
SimCity 2000 (PC, Maxis)
SiN (PC, Ritual Entertainment)
Snails (PDA, PDAMill)
Sonic the Hedgehog (SMD, Sonic Team)
Suikoden III (PS2, Konami)
Super Bomberman (SNES, Hudson)
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, Nintendo)
Super Metroid (SNES, Nintendo)
Street Fighter II (Arcade, Capcom)
Tales of Phantasia (GBA, Namco)
Tetris (GB, Nintendo)
Trauma Center: Under the Knife (DS, Atlus)
Unreal Tournament (PC, Epic)
Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (PS2, tri-Ace)
Viewtiful Joe (GCN, Capcom Production Studio 4)
WipEout Pulse (PSP, Sony Studio Liverpool)
The World Ends With You (DS, Square Enix)
Xenogears (PS1, SquareSoft)
Yakuza (PS2, SEGA)

DC: Dreamcast
DS: Nintendo DS
GB: Game Boy
GBA: Game Boy Advance
GCN: GameCube
SMD: Sega Megadrive/Genesis
N64: Nintendo 64
NES: Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom
PC: Windows PC/DOS
PDA: Pocket PC/PalmOS
PS2: PlayStation 2
PSX: PlayStation
SNES: Super Nintendo/Super Famicom

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tabloid victory over Rule of Rose

Just had the misfortune to watch a couple of minutes of the gross Madonna Confessions Tour on Channel 4. Ugh. Didn't even bother to wait for the hypocritical religious critique.

Am getting my arse pwned in Final Fantasy III by entering the Forbidden Land Eureka before I was ready. It is a great place to level up and earn some gils though.

Sticking with gaming, thanks to several right wing tabloids, a Japanese game titled Rule of Rose has been shelved for any UK release. Although not banned by the government (it received a PEGI rating of '16' after all), publisher 505 Games (the same publisher of that bible 'game') has decided to pander to media pressure and canned the UK release, which means until some other brave publisher picks it up, the UK gamers has to import to play it.

Reviews of the game has been mixed but when I showed the clips to Jenni a couple of weeks ago, we found that we were interested in a game that allows us to play as an underage British school girl, hacking away at her peers. The game must be good then, and the macabre style reminds me a lot of American McGee's Alice - a game that I enjoyed.

For some time we gamers this side of the Atlantic, has been pretty lucky to be spared the moralistic crusade by politicians attempting to blame violence on video games, much like what has been happening in the US for a number of years. I think the BBFC and PEGI has been doing an outstanding job in rating games effectivel. Obviously some EU twit down in Brussels thought otherwise, calling for changes in the way PEGI issues rating, evoking a sense of deja-vu to those who follows the US gaming scene, where Hillary Clinton et al. is attempting to pursue changes to the ESRB rating system.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Media circus

What is it that this woman does not understand? Nobody is banning you from wearing your bloody cross while on work. They are just requesting you to hide it under your garment. The problem isn't about her right to be with her religion (I say that with a shudder), but her attempt to preach:
"It is important to wear it to express my faith so that other people will know that Jesus loves them."
Like I gave a damn about whether a dead guy I never met loves me. Wear your cross all you want, but also abide by your employers' rules by wearing them inside. This whole media circus is sickening, but is partly to do with BA's hypocritical attitude as well.

Thankfully we will have another media circus to moan about. Attention seeker David Blaine is attempting to... well I can't be bothered to type it all down. David, we used to watch your street magic on the telly. If you want to continue with stunts rather than continue with magic tricks, why not do it here? Surely in merry ol' London you will have a hell a lot more media attention, what with the Londoners way of greeting the likes of you.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Final Fantasy III DS remake review

Fans of old school Final Fantasy RPGs knows what to expect when they unwrap that shrinkwrap that adorns a newly purchased Final Fantasy classic - deformed characters, knights and wizards, fantasy setting, airships, kawaii protagonists etc. And lucky for many of us, Squenix did a faithful remake of a game, that has been absent from any sort of official English release for 16 years. And no, they did not replace the four orphaned characters with Cloud-like emo characters. Thankfully.

Final Fantasy III DS begins with an earthquake, which causes protagonist Luneth to fall into the Altar Cave nearby the village of Ur, where he grew up. After battling a number of burly enemies, he is summoned by the Wind Crystal, who immediately tasked him the extreme burden of saving the world. Rounding up his fellow Warriors of Light team, Luneth and his new mates set off, exploring the floating continent in which they live, and attempting to restore balance to the world.

First impressions counts and when Final Fantasy III DS is booted, a nice pre-rendered clips opens the game. FMV clips are all good but pre-rendered clips doesn't mean squat to gameplay and thankfully Square Enix decided to only limit the FMV to the intro, and instead put more effort into retooling the in-game engine. Here we have something similar to that of Final Fantasy IX - with all those cute super deformed characters. Character designs, while in 3D now, are still positively 'Famicom like'.

FF III has never been a character driven game (those are reserved for even numbered Final Fantasy games - applies only to pre-Playstation era) but for the DS remake, the developers added background stories and personalities to each of the four protagonists. You do get a surly character, but be thankful that at least he isn't an emo nut. Even then FF III DS is first and foremost a technical RPG, and not the plot driven melodramatic narrative is could have been.

The graphics here are fantastic and I am glad that Squenix has decided to retain the deformed look. Facial animations and expressions on our cute little characters are even evident during cut scenes (which uses the game engine). All characters are in full 3D and the surrounding areas are a mixture of pre-rendered sprites and polygons (with lovely textures). The developers at Matrix Software really took advantage of everything the DS has to offer. The only complaint I had was, in order to get things smoothly, top screen is switched off for most of the time. It would have been nice to have either a dungeon map/stat page on the top (like Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow).

Battle system is still old school menu driven turn based combat, which could potentially put people off (especially those introduced to the series during the PS era). Some has complained that Square Enix did not bother to update the combat system to reflect that of more modern Final Fantasy games, or that it is too difficult (mainly by western reviewers). I have to admit I was never a huge fan of menu driven combat games but with FF III and it's whole loads of customisation, I really embraced it. Battles can be hard at first (not helped by not featuring a save system in the dungeons), especially with those irksome random battles, but hei, you do need to level up. The game can also be played with either stylus or face buttons.

The job system is most impressive. Supposedly overhauled from the original 8-bit version, FF III DS features (as Squenix marketing maintained in an EGM ad I saw) 279,841 possible party configurations. As many of you know the job system debuted in FF III and I am glad that Square Enix only tinkered with it slightly, by balancing the system and adding a couple of new jobs. You do get penalties for switching jobs but only for the first few battles. It is complex and frustrating, but it is also an utterly addictive system which rewards players with results.

So is Final Fantasy III worth the 16 year wait? You bet. This is a great return to the old school fantasy pre-PlayStation RPG we all love, and a fine example of how not to screw up a remake. If Square Enix plans to remake more games (Chrono *cough* Trigger) then they should do so with the same loving care as they applied on this. Import this today.


Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK

Update: Check out this chibi Final Fantasy III toys!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Stanmer Down bike ride again + Casino Royale thingy

Went to Ditchling Beacon again today. Great weather (up till mid afternoon). There was also a cycling competition down at Stanmer Park through the hilly hills - using road bikes with knobbly tires. Weird. I am glad that there were many other ordinary MTBers out today as well.

Met Marcus and Sybille at the Beacon. They biked from Lewes. Marcus has a fab new bike, a Canyon (Internet only German frame builder) Nerve XC full-susser. Looks fantastic and the kits that came with it were pretty decent. Highlights includes Manitou branded front and rear fork, Shimano XT rear and front mech, Deore shifters and cranks etc. You can't find sub £1000 FS bikes in the UK with that sort of components. Doesn't change that my dream bike is still either a Kona Kula Primo or Specialized Stuntjumper Pro though. ;)

Also watched Casino Royale. Summary: Above average film (though a bit too long) but a bad Bond film nonetheless. Okay, the film is supposed to explore the origins of James Bond. But somehow Daniel Craig's edgy version of James Bond came out as unlikeable thug. And the villains were such whimps - lame! Bring back Pierce is all I can say. Savvy, cool, smooth, clever and a gentleman were all I ever associate with the modern Bond. Now I have to include thuggish, smug, prat, childish etc. to it while deleting many of the many positive aspects usually associated with Britain's top fictional spy.

Go Happy Feet.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nintendo Wii first impressions

Tried the Wii out today with four games - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, WarioWare, Wii Sports and Wii Play. The new Zelda looked amazing and despite rendering only in 576p, looked 'next-gen' to me. Not as great as those high-res PC games but still looked amazing.

From what I noticed I think Nintendo is on a win here. Most of those who crowded around to give the Wii a shot were parents with young kids. Never have I seen parents actually sit down and play video games with their children. And all of them were loving it, so it seems Nintendo's strategy of targeting adults and 'casual gamers' are working. The 'hardcore gamers' were crowding the Zelda set, but they were also having fun with Wii Sport (free in the UK) and Wii Play.

The WiiMote is amazingly small, yet heavy enough to be comfortable. If Ninty plays their cards right, they can actually win this 'casual gamers' argument and take the next gen crown. The Wii deserves nothing less.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tabloid style ranting

Good to know that the Church of England is still capable of making pointless and crazy statements. I thought with the liberal Rowan Williams they have become fairly rational and maybe capable of leaving us non-believers alone. Not so thanks to Dr John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, who thinks he can wade in and put his 2 penny piece of trash talk - first by attacking seculars and then chipping in his opinion that Muslim women should not wear veil. Actually it was something I agree with, but for a different reasons to his. He is an anglican archbishop, so his views are already biased anyway. It's not like people are clamoring for the banning of crosses, dog collars, jewish skull caps (and side burns), catholic nun uniforms, buddhists robes etc. are they now?

And please please stop the attack on TV and the BBC. The BBC is the only network who continues broadcasting live religious sermons from churches on Sundays and is where most of us see the inside of a church - like ever.

I see that Mayor Ken is planning to kill of Chelsea tractors by charging residents 25 quid a day on congestion charge. Wonderful. It is about time somebody took action against these practically useless vehicles. I have never seen why many Londoners would even need a 4x4 (just like I can't see the point of owning a 4"-6" full sussers as a commuting bike - but at least they don't pollute) when most of them are owned by "soccer mums" for the purpose of school runs. 4x4 has its uses - in the countryside! But not in the city.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Games Games Games

I am going to blog about games today.

I can never understand why people bother to play FPS games on consoles. F.E.A.R. was just released on the 360 and why ruin the experience with a bog-standard pad, when you can get the PC version (now cheap) and run it down with a good old WASD+mouse combo. I did give the N64's Goldeneye a go before and it was an okay game (flame me) - but even with its then-revolutionary analog stick, the N64 pad was not cut it for FPS games. It is like trying to play Quake on an IBM laptop with its nipple mouse.

Developers try to compensate with the lack of precision with built-in auto lock, but in my experience it is usually hit and miss. So far nothing I have tried - PS pad, Dreamcast, GameCube etc. has changed my mind on joypads. They work well on third person mode (eg. Resident Evil 4), 2D and racing games. I think I would prefer to keep my PC just a bit longer for that odd shooter - at least until competent shooters arrive on the Wii platform.

I have serious game withdrawal now, having completed Gyakuten Saiban 2, and getting stuck in Seiken Densetsu: Children of Mana. Speaking of DS games, the new NFS: Carbon is much better than the two previous and rather dreadful DS build. Not something I would plok down £30, or even £20 for, but at least it is a vast improvement. I still won't be getting it. I don't 'get' all the drifting culture and I absolutely hate the soundtrack. I guess the last true NFS game I truly enjoyed was NFS: Porsche Unleased before they started concentrating on all the Underground crap.

I was also down at HMV Haymarket the other day. They have serious issues when it comes to ripping people off. An example would be £30 they were asking for Brain Training. Other stores, and indeed other HMVs are selling them for the recommended £20 (which is still a rip-off when you can import it for less).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Stanmer Down trail map

Having a blogger's block, so I thought of a way to keep my blog updated without resorting to some sort of diatribe. Haha.

Here is a map of a loop that we love to ride during weekends when we are too lazy to go somewhere else but just want to get on the saddle. We usually ride the extra 3.5 miles from Jenni's place to the starting point outside University of Sussex, but it is also accessible by train (Falmer Station). If you are driving, there are car parks at Stanmer Park and Ditchling Beacon (top right corner).

Screenshots based on maps reproduced from Ordnance Survey 1: 25,000 mapping © Crown copyright. All rights reserved.

The track, at nine miles, is fairly short and simple - though there are plenty of ascents and scenic views over the Weald to look forward to. If this isn't enough, you can always continue westwards of Ditchling Beacon towards Devil's Dyke and do another loop there. ;)

In other news, a mate lent me Feels by Animal Collective. I copied the tracks to my portable DAP but soon forgot about it. I was listening to the Gyakuten Saiban Orchestra album yesterday and dozed off midway (I was in a coach). It reached the end and started playing the first folder it found, which was Animal Collective. I woke up and found tracks after tracks simply amazing. Not sure how to describe it so I thought I would pinch some of Amazon UK's review: "Feels is a big, daring collection with recurring themes of psychedelia, folk-rock, prog-rock, jazz, and modern classical composition." This is just fantastic stuff.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

MTB Bike Ride: Cuckoo Trail

Went down to Polegate today with Jenni and Tony and did the Cuckoo Trail. The trail begins at Polegate and passes through Hailsham, Hellingly, Horam and Heathfield and is built on the original Cuckoo Line (opened in 1880) Polegate to Eridge railway track. Shared by walkers and horseriders, the Cuckoo Trail is now also part of the National Cycle Network 21 and takes you from East Sussex to the Weald.

The trail is about 11 miles each way and there are plenty of benches around as well as wood carvings based on local wildlife. The route is pretty easy as the trail is mainly flat and mostly tarmacked, and for much part, riders are protected from the hailing wind due to the surrounding Wealden trees. There is a slight ascent when riding north towards Heathfield. Generally we found the route much easier when cycling southwards back towards Polegate - but maybe that's because we had lunch at the local pub in Heathfield. The weather was lovely today as the Northern wind did not arrive until much later. But I do need to get a pair of full finger winter mitts. We love the trail, it is fairly easy and therefore a perfect trail to speed through. We would definitely do again - probably in Spring when the birds are migrating.

The trail itself is signposted throughout but if you want to explore the surrounding area you would need either an Ordnance Survey Explorer 123 or Landranger 199 map.

Total: 26 miles (22 miles Cuckoo Trail, 4 miles in Brighton, Polegate and Heathfield)

An abandoned former railway station:

A former rail platform now makes up part of the Cuckoo Trail:

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